September 1, 2007
Theses from C3 Alum (2 of 3): Sam Ford and Geoffrey Long

Earlier today, I wrote about the recent promotion of the availability of the thesis projects from the Program in Comparative Media Studies being available through the CMS Web site here at MIT. Here, I am highlighting the thesis projects of C3 alum that are available in that archive. In this post, I have included the abstracts of both my project and Geoffrey Long's, in-depth case studies of media properties from Procter & Gamble's As the World Turns soap opera and the Jim Henson Company.

Sam Ford, As the World Turns in a Convergence Culture

The American daytime serial drama is among the oldest television genres and remains a vital part of the television lineup for ABC and CBS as what this thesis calls an immersive story world. However, many within the television industry are now predicting that the genre will fade into obscurity after two decades of declining ratings. This study outlines how the soap opera industry is and could be further adapting to the technological and social changes of a convergence culture to maintain and revitalize the genre's relevance for viewers and advertisers alike.

CBS/Procter and Gamble Productions/TeleVest's As the World Turns will serve as a case study for these changes. This project examines how the existing fan base plays an active role in gaining and maintaining new fans by researching historical and contemporary examples of social relationships that fans form with other fans and the show itself. In addition to looking at how these fan communities operate, this thesis focuses on how soap operas have adapted and might adapt to alternate revenue models such as product placement, capitalize on their vast content archives, and tell stories through multiple media formats. The study concludes that soap operas should be managed as brands and not ephemeral television content because of their permanence in the television landscape, that fans outside the target advertising demographic should be empowered as proselytizers for the show, and that a transgenerational storytelling approach best utilizes the power of the genre to tell its stories.

Geoffrey Long's Transmedia Storytelling: Business, Aesthetics and Production at the Jim Henson Company

Transmedia narratives use a combination of Barthesian hermeneutic codes, negative capability and migratory cues to guide audiences across multiple media platforms. This thesis examines complex narratives from comics, novels, films and video games, but draws upon the transmedia franchises built around Jim Henson's Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal to provide two primary case studies in how these techniques can be deployed with varying results. By paying close attention to staying in canon, building an open world, maintaining a consistent tone across extensions, carefully deciding when to begin building a transmedia franchise, addressing open questions while posing new ones, and looking for ways to help audiences keep track of how each extension relates to each other, transmedia storytellers can weave complex narratives that will prove rewarding to audiences, academics and producers alike.